MY FOURTH OF JULY

Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America...

An exuberant, old-time–y celebration of the Fourth of July.

An energetic young child breathlessly narrates the day, from waking up bursting with excitement to conking out after the fireworks. In between, Spinelli’s nostalgic narrative hits all the expected notes. The child helps prepare the picnic (hot dogs and cherry pie, natch) and loads it into the little red wagon. A train festooned with bunting and pulled by a steam engine crosses Main Street. Once at the park, the family picnics and partakes in all the traditional Fourth of July activities, including face painting, sack racing, a concert in the bandstand, a visit to the zoo (this small-town park is extremely well-appointed), and, of course, the fireworks. Spinelli’s present-tense text combines a childlike voice (“Mama hands me a banana. I’m so excited I forgot to eat breakfast”) with poetic fervor (“My eyes cannot hold the wonders I see. My heart is cheering”). The only nods to patriotism are the abundant flags and mention of standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Day’s small town is a Norman Rockwell–esque place of white frame houses and unleashed, well-behaved dogs. The narrator and family present white, while the narrator’s best friend and some of the other festivalgoers are people of color.

Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America and its diversity, opt for Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Jason Chin’s Pie Is for Sharing (2018). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4288-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

THE BIG CHEESE

From the Food Group series

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers.

A winning wheel of cheddar with braggadocio to match narrates a tale of comeuppance and redemption.

From humble beginnings among kitchen curds living “quiet lives of pasteurization,” the Big Cheese longs to be the best and builds success and renown based on proven skills and dependable results: “I stuck to the things I was good at.” When newcomer Wedge moves to the village of Curds-on-Whey, the Cheese’s star status wobbles and falls. Turns out that quiet, modest Wedge is also multitalented. At the annual Cheese-cathlon, Wedge bests six-time winner Cheese in every event, from the footrace and chess to hat making and bread buttering. A disappointed Cheese throws a full-blown tantrum before arriving at a moment of truth: Self-calming, conscious breathing permits deep relief that losing—even badly—does not result in disaster. A debrief with Wedge “that wasn’t all about me” leads to further realizations: Losing builds empathy for others; obsession with winning obscures “the joy of participating.” The chastened cheddar learns to reserve bragging for lifting up friends, because anyone can be the Big Cheese. More didactic and less pun-rich than previous entries in the Food Group series, this outing nevertheless couples a cheerful refrain with pithy life lessons that hit home. Oswald’s detailed, comical illustrations continue to provide laughs, including a spot with Cheese onstage doing a “CHED” talk.

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063329508

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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